Posted by Lori Ayre on March 26, 2011

On 3/22/211, ISO 28560, the RFID in Libraries Data Model and Encoding Standard was published. It is composed of three parts. Part One describes the data models and data elements while Parts Two and Three provide for two options for encoding the data on the tags. The U.S. will eventually select one of these two models and specify the mandatory and optional data elements to be used in libraries. This will be a NISO standard. The forthcoming NISO standard is likely to be based on ISO 28560-2. So, what does this mean for you?

If you have RFID tags already, you will eventually want to ensure your tags are conformant to the new ISO 28560-2 standard to take advantage of the interoperability and additional functionality that will result from using the same data elements and encoding method.  While it still won’t guarantee compatibility, it certainly increases the possibility. I don’t know when the NISO standard will be announced/published but that will be the time to *insist* that your vendor support the new NISO standard. That’s the final piece of the RFID standards puzzle.  But be aware that in order to be NISO compliant (when that happens), your vendor will need to be ISO 28650 compliant. So, start talking to your vendor now.

If you are on the verge of selecting RFID tags and RFID vendors, be sure to ensure that your vendor will guarantee compliance with ISO 28560-2 now.  FYI, most vendors are NOT now compliant with this standard. Again, the NISO standard will be based on ISO 28560-2, but with a bit more specificity so at the bare minimum, you want your vendor to follow the most current standard and that is now ISO 28560 (preferably 28560-2).

How can you be sure the tags you are using conform to the new standard?  I’m pretty sure you are not using compliant tags but here’s what you need to know.  First, your physical tag must be compliant.  If  you are using what the vendors have generally referred to as “ISO compliant tags, then you probably have the right physical tags.  Up until now, when they have said “ISO compliant,” they were generally referring to ISO 15962 (the most recent relevant standard until now).  That’s an important start.  That means your blank tag was ISO 15692 compliant.  Now, let’s see what happens when you start writing data to your tag (e.g. encoding the tag)….

The vendor you select for writing data to the tag is using some method for encoding the data.  It may be the Danish Model, Dutch, French, Finnish Model or the UK Model or Australian Model. If your vendor is following anything but the Australian or UK Model (which most are), then they are following the 29560-3 path.  The U.S. is likely to follow the 28560-2 ISO standard (as have Austrlia and the UK) so they will have their work cut out for them to switch over to 28560-2.

What you need to do is find out when they will *begin* using the new ISO 28560-2 standard for encoding and find out their plan for migrating you and your tags onto the new ISO standard (eventually the NISO data model and encoding standard that is the next and final standard to pay attention to).

If you don’t even have “ISO compliant tags” (ISO 15962)….well, you will probably have to re-tag your material in order to be on a compliant system. Bummer.

To our U.S. RFID vendors, I hope you will contact Convergent Technologies and purchase their  toolkit for diagnosing conformance of your tags and begin making a plan for moving your clients onto an ISO 28560 standard system.  Convergent is the only company that I know of who has these tools.  I’d love to hear about a company that can do conformance testing here in the U.S. Let me know if you know of anyone.

And one more thing, if you are a library that has worked with me on an RFID procurement, you  should be in fine shape. I’ve always insisted that my clients *only* work with a vendor that will guarantee that they will be compliant within a year of either the ISO or NISO data model standard being published (that would be 3/22/11) and that the conversion of the data model can be done on the fly (e.g. during normal circulation operations) using the existing tags.

If you didn’t work with me on your RFID acquisition…check your contract and talk to your vendor.  Everyone needs to put pressure on their RFID vendors to begin encoding their tags according to 28560-2 and eventually, more specifically, to the new NISO standard that will be based on ISO 28560-2.

Eventually, we are going to be able to do some great things with sorting and ILL and shelf-checking and inventory with those tags.  But you’ll need to be on a compliant system to take advantage of these developments.